Italian if clause – type 3

To master this grammar topic, take Lesson 220 of the audio course Ripeti Con Me!
Periodo ipotetico type 3

Italian if clause – type 3

“If clauses” are those phrases that mention a condition, introduced by the word “if”. This clause is usually followed (or preceded) by a consequence.

Let’s have a look at one type of “if clause” for you to understand better:

  • If you came here, we could do something together.

As you can see, there is a condition (the clause introduced by “if”) and a consequence (the other clause).

In today’s lesson, we’re going to focus on the Italian “if clause” – type 3.

In Italian, we call it periodo ipotetico dell’impossibilità”.

We use this type of “if clause” when there is the impossibility of the condition coming true because we refer to an event that should have happened in the past.

In other words, this type of “if clause” expresses an impossible hypothesis, something in the past that can’t happen anymore, as well as its consequence.

That’s why it’s called “periodo ipotetico dell’impossibilità”.

Here’s an example of an “if clause” – type 3 in English:

  • If you had listened to me, you would have done the right thing.

This is how we would say it in Italian:

  • Se mi avessi ascoltato, avresti fatto la cosa giusta.

Periodo ipotetico in Italian type 3

Italian if clause – type 3: structure

Let’s now focus on the structure of type 3 Italian “if clause”.

In the case of an impossible hypothesis, we use the congiuntivo trapassato (referred to as the past perfect subjunctive) in the clause expressing the condition (the one starting with “se”) and the past conditional in the clause expressing the consequence.

So, this is the structure:

  • Se + congiuntivo trapassato + past conditional

If you don’t remember or if you just don’t know how to form the congiuntivo trapassato or/and past conditional, keep reading the next two sections.

If you don’t need to review this, you can skip to the section with examples.

The Italian periodo ipotetico in the past

Italian if clause – type 3: congiuntivo trapassato

We use the congiuntivo trapassato to formulate a hypothesis in the past. That’s why we need it in this type of construction when we want to talk about a consequence in the past.

The congiuntivo trapassato is a compound tense, which means it’s made up of two separate verbs: the auxiliary verb (essere or avere) and the main verb.

In order to form the congiuntivo trapassato, we need the following structure:

Here are the verbs and “avere” and “essere” in the imperfect of the subjunctive:

  • Avere: io avessi, tu avessi, lui/lei avesse, noi avessimo, voi aveste, loro avessero.
  • essere: io fossi, tu fossi, lui/lei fosse, noi fossimo, voi foste, loro fossero

Here’s a tip for you, in case you don’t remember this:

  • Avere is followed by most verbs, like “comprare” (to buy), “mangiare” (to eat), “leggere” (to read), etc.
  • Essere is followed by the verb “essere” and “stare“, and by all verbs that deal with movement and by reflexive verbs.

Past participles are those words that end in -ATO, -UTO, and -ITO, like mangiato, saputo, and dormito.

There are some past participles that are irregular, like chiesto (asked), detto (said), fatto (done), stato (been), venuto (come), visto (seen).

Free Guide
How to Learn Languages Fast

Here are some examples – note that, for practical reasons, they’re not complete sentences but isolated phrases:

Se avessi mangiato…

If I had eaten…

Se avessimo visto…

If we had seen…

Se fossi andata…

If I had gone…

Se foste venuti…

If you had come…

As you can see in the examples above, the past participle of the verbs that go with “essere” (i.e.: fossi, foste) agree in number and gender with the subject (i.e.: andata, venuti).

The Italian if clause type 3 in the past

Italian if clause – type 3: past conditional

We use the past conditional to express an outcome in the past that didn’t happen. That’s why we use it together with the clause introducing the condition in the past.

Here’s the structure of the Italian past conditional:

  • avere or essere in the present conditional + past participle

Here are the verbs avere and essere in the past conditional:

  • Avere: io avrei, tu avresti, lui/lei avrebbe, noi avremmo, voi avreste, loro avrebbero.
  • essere: io sarei, tu saresti, lui/lei sarebbe, noi saremmo, voi sareste, loro sarebbero

Here are some examples – again, they’re not complete sentences:

avrei mangiato

I would have eaten

avrebbe voluto

she would have wanted

saremmo andati

they would have gone

sarei venuta

I would have come

If clause in Italian type 3 in the past

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

Italian if clause – type 3: examples

Let’s have a look at some more examples with a condition in the past and an outcome that didn’t happen:

Se mi avessi detto la verità, ti avrei creduto.

If you had told me the truth, I would have believed you.

Se avessi saputo che venivi, avrei preparato qualcosa da mangiare.

If I had known you were coming, I would have prepared something to eat.

Se avessimo avuto un aereo privato, avremmo girato tutto il mondo.

If we had had a private plane, we would have gone all around the world.

Se fossi venuta al concerto con noi ieri sera, ti saresti divertita.

If you had come to the concert with us last night, you would have had fun.

Se fossimo andati in centro, li avremmo incontrati.

If we had gone downtown, we would have met them.

Periodo ipotetico in Italian type 3 in the past

Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!


Italian language tutor, course author, and polyglot. After learning 12 languages, I can tell you that we all master languages by listening and mimicking. With my method, you'll be speaking Italian from Lesson 1.

Follow me to fluency

Receive my free resources once a week together with my best offers! No need to look around, just tell me where to send everything.

Opt out at any time.

Leave a Reply

To master this topic, take a lesson from my audio course!

Try my courses for free​
ripeti con me mockup sm

Let me show you around

Overcome your Barriers

Anything holding you back from becoming fluent?
Get on the right track today with my free checklist!

pain learning languages checklist preview
How long to fluency?

Find out how long it will take you to master Italian!
Get on the right track in 3 minutes.

dolce vita logo

We're already friends!

Coming from Luca and Marina?
Here's a special deal for you!
Just tell me where I should send the coupon.

50% OFF
all language resources

We're already friends!

Coming from All Language Resources?
Here's a special deal for you!
Just tell me where I should send the coupon.

50% OFF
50% OFF

To receive free resources once a week together with my best offers, just tell me where to send everything. Opt out at any time.